TO PARAPHRASE an old saying; the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man – and this is very much in evidence behind the wire in Larkhill, Salisbury Plain.
As a military welfare facility and registered charity, The Royal Artillery Saddle Club is open to serving personnel, families and the local community and offers all kinds of horsey activities. Staffed by soldiers, the club runs competitions, clinics and events aided by a committed team of volunteers.
A happy place
Sam Brindley moved to Larkhill with her daughters Taylor and Lacey to join her soldier spouse James. Taking Taylor for a Saturday morning lesson often ends up with her still being there at four in the afternoon.
“It’s a community,” Sam explained, “the stables are Taylor’s happy place and it’s all she talks about. It’s where she feels normal and part of a group.”
The staff are aware of Taylor’s extra needs including problems retaining and processing information and having moderate deafness in one ear.
“They are amazing with her; so patient, giving her that bit more time she needs,” added Sam.
The perfect distraction
The saddle club proved a godsend when single father and soldier Matt Long was admitted to Headley Court with neurological complications following an operation.
His younger daughter Belle rides in every competition and spends all the time she can at the saddle club to distract herself. Support from staff has helped her during a difficult period and has enabled Matt essential time to ‘reset’ – he’s now back at work.
Stables manager Peter Pagan-Skelley has been the driving force behind competitions and clinics, which are enjoyed by military and civilian families alike. A recent fundraiser provided for two new ponies to enable more children to ride when new families arrive in the area as part of the Army’s rebasing programme.